Trigger Bill About Profit

This bill was not carefully crafted to help Florida parents and children. Its only supporters are billionaires and corporations.

THE LAKELAND LEDGER/ February 7, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.
By KATHLEEN OROPEZA

When it comes to deceiving voters, Florida politicians earn an A+ every time. The “Parent Empowerment Act” or “parent trigger” promoted as “opening the door to a whole new level of communication between parents and the schools,” is nothing more than another bait-and-switch scheme like the Florida lottery.

The deception started when Rep. Michael Bileca [R-West Miami] and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto [R-Fort Myers] pulled a ready-made parent-trigger bill right off the shelf, attached their names and cemented their allegiance to the education “reform” agenda.

This bill was not carefully crafted to help Florida parents and children. Its only supporters are billionaires and corporations. When the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries and the Foundation for Florida’s Future are the most eager supporters of a bill, the Florida voter can assume there’s a profit motive.

Instead of empowering parents, this infamous parent trigger does the following:

  • Uses parents as a tool to pull the “trigger” and hand their neighborhood school over to a private for-profit charter-management corporation.
  • Takes power away from parents, leaving them to resolve disputes long distance with out-of-state charter management boards.
  • Strips power from parents and voters, removing all local control from taxpayers.
  • Destroys the democratic process by taking neighborhood schools away from the jurisdiction of duly elected district officials.
  • Allows a small group of people to make major fiscal and education decisions for everyone else’s children.
  • Makes no provision for returning the school to the district, robbing Florida taxpayers of a significant capital investment.

Not one legitimate grass-roots parent group asked any legislator to present this legislation. In fact, an alliance comprised of the Florida PTA, Citizens for Strong Schools, 50th No More, FundEducationNow.org. Marions United for Public Education, Save Duval Schools and Support Dade Schools issued a public statement strongly opposing the Parent Empowerment Act.

Florida already has significant laws on the books that address struggling schools and require parent involvement. The people pushing the parent trigger are not real Florida moms and dads. Not even close.

The only parent testifying in favor of this bill was an employee of California’s Parent Revolution, a $1 million grass-tops group whose purpose is to promote and implement this law. The Parent Revolution is not an authentic parent group — it’s a lobbying tool created and funded by reform-agenda billionaires Gates, Wasserman, Broad, Hewlett-Packard and Walton.

Florida voters must wise up. We must ask ourselves, “How can it be that something called Parent Empowerment actually robs parents of every shred of control in the end?” The sad answer is that our Florida politicians stopped working for the moms and dads of this state a long time ago.

One by one, they have slipped away and joined a radical education-reform agenda that sees dollar signs instead of the hopeful faces of the children we love. As parents, we must always ask, “Who is profiting from this?” That’s real empowerment.

[ Kathleen Oropeza is co-founder of www.fundeducationnow.org, Orlando. ]